Today I present an ARC review of NORTH QUEEN by Nicola Tyche. This is the first book in a dark fantasy romance trilogy. I unexpectedly found myself bingeing this book and can’t wait for the next one. Read on to see my more in-depth thoughts about it.
Author: Nicola Tyche
Series: Crowns, #1
Age Category: New Adult
Publisher: Columbia River Publishing
Publish Date: July 4, 2023
Print Length: 588
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The Return of a Lost Heir …
The kingdom of Mercia has been at war with the Shadow King and his dark army for ten years. To escape the seer’s vision of her capture, Mercia’s heir to the throne, Princess Norah Andell, is secreted away by her father to keep her safe. But when he dies in battle, so too dies the knowledge of where she’s hidden. She’s lost to the world-until three years later, when she’s found with no memory of who she is or the kingdom that now rests on her shoulders.
A Conflicted Duty …
Loyal and fearless commander of the Mercian army, Alexander Rhemus, has protected the realm against the threat of the Shadow King, awaiting Norah’s return. Not only does she hold the fate of the kingdom, but also his heart. However, when she’s found, he discovers she has no memory of him, or what was once between them. With war still looming, Norah is expected to wed and secure an alliance-one Mercia desperately needs to stand against the Shadow King. Now, with Mercia’s future at stake, Alexander finds himself torn between his duty and his heart.
A Twisted Fate …
Norah is thrust into a world she doesn’t know, in a role she’s unprepared for, to save a kingdom she doesn’t remember. Under the hardship of winter and a dark enemy against them, Mercia is on the verge of breaking. As things start to unravel, the Shadow King draws Norah down a path of twisted fate-and it could cost her everything.
I received a free, digital, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
NORTH QUEEN is a dark fantasy that intertwines prophesized fates, war, and a choice between duty or desire. This is foremost a character-driven novel. Norah, the female main character, awakens in the middle of the woods with no memory of who or where she is. Found and brought back to her kingdom of Mercia, she discovers she must wed a neighboring king to protect her people. Eventually resigned to her duty, fate has other plans and she instead finds herself in the hands of the enemy: the Shadow King.
I appreciated that even though Norah is an awful liar, as she tries to keep her memory loss known to only a select few, she is headstrong and has some quick quips. She has every right to be emotional and afraid. Although she feels this trepidation internally, she also recognizes that life keeps moving. For the most part I thought she had a well-balanced way of interpreting and communicating. And she wasn’t afraid to let her opinion known. I did raise an eyebrow at a couple of her decisions, though. But sometimes the reader just has to let it flow and enjoy the story.
However, I do wish Norah had asked more questions about the cultural customs, politics, and prophecies. I felt this would have provided to the reader a better sense of why the Shadow King is so fearsome. Then again, I have to ask myself what would I focus on if I had no memories? Probably my safety first given the short time frame Norah had to work with before trotting off to her betrothed. Additionally, a half-full cup leaves open the intrigue for the story to continue.
Even though NORTH QUEEN has a character-focused narrative, I thought the secondary world building was great. There is a map that shows where each kingdom lies. Because Norah has no preconceptions, everything feels new and strange. The reader learns about the different kingdoms through the established perceptions of others. This opens up an interesting dynamic or allegory for how perceptions impressed upon one from birth influence how one sees what is “right” or “wrong.” I’d love to see this explored more in the trilogy. I have a feeling that not everything is as it seems and there are some twisted truths.
I had mixed feelings about the romance, in a mostly good way. It’s easy for the reader to pick up on some past history between Norah and her love interest in Mercia. My heart felt so torn for them when they both faced the decision of duty vs. desire. But then a love triangle, and then a love square, opens up and suddenly it’s not as simple. The love square is a much lesser focus. I was mildly unsure about how to feel about the love triangle because of the grey area nature of it. But such is the way of dark fantasy romance and those who read this subgenre know how it goes!
NORTH QUEEN has the potential to please fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses and To Bleed a Crystal Bloom. This is without a doubt flying under the radar of dark fantasy romance readers and deserves its chance to shine. It’s bingeable and those 550+ pages seemingly go by in a flash. I, for one, look forward to the final two books later this year.
Content warnings: attempted sexual assault, blood, death, sexual content
Reading format: Kindle e-book